Hospice care is a specialty service specifically for individuals and their loved ones with late-stage illnesses. This includes medical, emotional, spiritual, and grief support. Hospice care can be widely misunderstood! Many associate hospice with death, when in reality, the purpose is to enhance and maintain the best quality of life possible in the end stages of illness.
There are many questions, and myths, about hospice care. Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions!
1. Is hospice care only for cancer patients?
Hospice is for anyone with a late-stage illness including Alzheimer's, dementia, heart and lung disease, and many other life-limiting diseases.
2. Is hospice care only for the elderly?
Hospice is for people of all ages who have a life expectancy of 6 months or less.
3. Is hospice care only provided in the home?
Hospice is provided in the home, but it is also provided in Skilled Nursing facilities, hospitals, Assisted Living facilities, or in Residential Hospice facilities.
4. Is hospice care expensive?
Hospice services, including medication and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis are typically completely covered by Medicare/Medicaid. Most private insurance carriers also offer a hospice benefit.
5. Is hospice only for the last few days of life?
Patients and families benefit most when hospice services are started as soon as an individual learns of his/her terminal diagnosis. Hospice care, at any stage, but especially early on, can significantly lighten the burden of the diagnosis.
6. Are hospice workers all volunteers?
While hospice does have trained volunteers that may provide certain services to patients and families, the actual care is provided by highly specialized professional staff including RN's, CNA's, social workers, chaplains, and grief specialists. The team also includes direction by the patient's doctor or hospice medical director.
7. Does hospice administer too much medication, to where my loved one becomes addicted or sleeps all of the time?
Hospice care neither hastens death or prolongs life. The hospice team are pain and symptom management experts. They provide support and pain relief so that patients are comfortable yet alert, and that they can share quality time with their loved ones and have a dignified peaceful end of life experience.
8. Once you begin hospice care, can you leave the program?
A patient may sign out of hospice for any reason including their wish to resume aggressive or curative treatment, or to pursue experimental measures. Also, if a patient shows signs of improvement and no longer meets the 6 month guideline, they can be discharged and return at a later time.
9. Can I contact hospice, or do I need to wait until my/my loved one's doctor suggests hospice care?
Anyone may call a hospice agency at any time to learn about hospice services, at no obligation. A doctor's order is ultimately required for admission to the program, but the family or patient can address this with the doctor, so that they do not have to wait for him/her to bring up the subject.
Written By: Care Manager RN